The Choices We Make.
I wish, often more than anything, that I could end the occasional parade of articles that pop up, haphazardly, across my various social media feeds. Quite often, they’re shared by a well-intentioned friend who wishes to assuage a conscience, for themselves or for another, and sometimes they’re posted by a wellness website that is fully aware of the traffic that they’ll bring, which I cannot really fault them for.
The article in question was one that was shared by the wellness and nutrition hub Mind Body Green, which is well-known for having a wide variety of content that generally leans more towards the plant-based side of the issue, which is commendable of course. They’re not an exclusively vegan website, so I don’t blame them for content that isn’t exclusively, 100% vegan. It was entitled “I Stopped Being Vegan & The World Kept Spinning”. Again, I’m fully aware of how websites work. They live and die by traffic, so its fair to create a provocative headline with the intent of catching the eyeballs of curious readers.
After reading through this piece, it was quite simple to understand where the author was coming from, as well as her arguments for no longer continuing to practice veganism; a quick summary will suffice to provide the audience with an overview. The author experiences a vegan milkshake that quite literally changed her life, and over the course of the next four years, she continues to make her dietary decisions within the context of compassion. Yet, one day, she finds herself staring at the food on her non-vegan boyfriend’s plate, wishing she could partake. She goes to the doctor to do a quick check up; the prognosis? Perfect bill of health, and no deficiencies whatsoever. Eventually, she begins to consume moderate amounts of animal-based products. That’s the story, in a nutshell. The author freely admits that being vegan allowed her to recover from an eating disorder, it helped her become more positive, and it gradually became a wonderfully positive and affirming choice in her life. And yet, she decided to resume eating animals after a number of years.
Talia (the author) goes on to explain why her “diet” eventually become less important in her life, and why she decided to no longer practice the ethics of veganism: “Because that’s what I needed then. And this is what I need now. And finally I’ve learned that it’s not about the label, it’s not about rules, it’s about listening to your body. It’s about doing what’s best for your body. It’s about experimenting with your body. But mostly, it’s about loving your body.”
We already know that there are a large number of people who practice a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons, which is all well and good. Many of us do it for a health reason, for science is grounded in certain indisputable realities when it comes to elements concerning nutrition and health. Some of us do it for environmental reasons, and many are vegan to be true to their internal values of compassion and love. The above statement, of course, is only valid inasmuch as it is her opinion. Is it unfortunate that as much as the author might believe that she is “loving her body” by putting animal products into it, the science doesn’t back her up, nor the factor of compassion? Yes, certainly. But I’m afraid we’re missing something larger here. These types of articles generally follow a particular pattern, where the author was vegan for a time, and somewhere along the road they begin to eat animals again out of a concern for being true to themselves and their bodies. This is nonsense, plain and simple. There’s no discussion about the health, or environmental, or ethical aspects involved in their decisions. They already know all of that, and they’ve carefully left it out of their reasoning. Which they are certainly allowed to do, having free will over their choices.
But as I said before, the bigger picture may be missed if we place all of our focus on one aspect of her story. As the vegan community, have we committed our own errors here? Have we communicated the vegan message in such a way that we’ve allowed people such as Talia to think that veganism is merely but one diet choice out of dozens? Have we done all that we can do to ensure the deeper, more grand message is being put forth? Talia has made her choice, to be sure. But as advocates, we must be sure that we graciously, kindly, and thoughtfully educate the public about these issues so that there is no confusion about the larger meaning of becoming vegan. To paraphrase Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, being vegan isn’t something outside of ourselves, it’s simply being true to the values of kindness, compassion, and mercy we already possessed within ourselves.
Talia has made her choice. After several years of being vegan, she certainly knew a great deal about the benefits of being vegan, and the important reasons one should make compassionate choices in regards to their food. And yet, she chose to offer up an explanation that isn’t rooted in reality, or science, or compassion, but rather in her own personal opinion. May we not forget that being vegan is not, and never should be, about us. It’s about the greater picture, of respecting the interdependent ecosystem that we are merely but a part of. May we not only remember this message, but may we communicate it compassionately and mercifully as well.
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